Misconceptions of Negative Reviews

 

thoughts orangutan

A few weeks ago, I saw something that has become the norm online: a famous author (who shall remain unnamed) saying why people shouldn’t write negative reviews. Now, not only is *criticising criticism pretty hypocritical*, it also comes across as someone with a fair amount of power trying to stifle conversation- and let’s just say I don’t approve. But going beyond this individual’s fame and success, there are a lot of people who hold similar views. Personally, I don’t have a problem with people choosing to only do positive reviews, but I think negative reviews get a bad rap. Sometimes I just think people don’t understand why people do them and assume motives that aren’t there. So, I thought I’d break down where I reckon these misconceptions are coming from:

meanMisconception #1: Critical reviewers are MEAN. Well, that could be true, who knows? 😉 Just kidding- I think this assumption is reading wayyy too much into things. Beyond the fact it’s probably not a good idea to psychoanalyse strangers on the internet, I also think that it’s not taking into consideration that people are different and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some reviewers are blunter than others, some are snarkier, some are funnier- because that’s their personality. Not to go all Big Five Personality on y’all, but (and I can’t believe I have to point this out) being more agreeable (for instance) doesn’t make you inherently a better person. For goodness sakes- you don’t have to like everyone’s way of doing things, yet I think we can all agree that how you review isn’t the next Great Moral Debate!

the devil hocus pocusMisconception #2: We want to upset authors. Also known as the “reviews are meant to help you improve” idea. Ermmm no. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: reviews are for READERS! That means whether the review is positive or negative, it’s not designed for the author. Frankly, I’m too shy to @ authors when I’m being entirely positive- but I definitely would never do that if I had even a smidge of criticism there.

never happyMisconception #3: We’re hard to please… okay this one is totally possible. And I did see a really great video about critical reviews, which suggested there’s a possibility you’re reading the wrong books for you 😉 HOWEVER, while this could be true, most reviewers will have a mixed bag. I know I do. And the thing is, even positive reviews can hold criticism- which leads me onto…

throw booksMisconception #4: We don’t love books. Pahahaha- so because we don’t like your book, we can’t like any books?! I mean, this is just plain silly. Why dedicate hours and hours to a passion if we secretly don’t like it? Really though, this feeds into the idea that we can read *everything* *all the time*- which is daft. Encouraging people to read endlessly is preposterous. So much so that even positive reviews should point out the downsides- and vice versa. For instance, while some people are put off by slow books, I’ll be perfectly happy to give it a try. Even when I’m gushing, I don’t aim for mindless POSITIVITY- for me it’s primarily about getting people to be able to find the right book for them. Sure, this isn’t always possible, but it’s worth a try!

stop reading
Almost didn’t put this meme in cos it personally offends me!

Misconception #5: Negative reviews are to stop you reading! Again, negative reviews are often pretty nuanced. They’re written to explain why someone may/may not want to read something; they’re not explicitly designed to deprive other people of pleasure. A great review helps readers make informed decisions (see above about not having the time to read everything ever written). BTW people who read reviews also aren’t braindead- *SHOCKER* readers are smart and can make up their own minds whether to trust the reviewer thank-you-very-much! As someone who watched and read reviews long before I got into doing it myself, I think it’s safe to say I know how to read a review without losing my sense of self. It’s quite possible to see a negative review and say “I’m going to read it anyway!” Which brings me onto…

im-right-youre-wrongMisconception #6: We think WHAT WE SAY GOES! We’re not gods or always right (that’s why I did a post about how not to review). Reviews are biased, they’re not objective. You don’t have to listen to them all the time and you can come away thinking something completely different.

Misconception #7: We’re playing 4D chess… Cos right now there is this idea that you will get ALL THE VIEWS if you get a little snarky. While I don’t deny this can be the case for some people, I’d say I have the same stats on negative and positive pieces. Plus, this is a good opportunity to come full circle in the piece and say PEOPLE ARE A BIT MORE COMPLEX THAN THAT. You can’t just bottle up people’s reasons for doing things in simple “oh they’re just looking for attention” terms. I for one didn’t start my blog for just one reason (and I can tell you when I started attention wasn’t even a remote possibility on my radar). So I think it’s time to finish off my piece with some age old wisdom:

when you assume

And with that I’d like to know what you think- do you reckon people have misconceptions about negative reviews? Or do you think any of these are spot on? Let me know in the comments!

101 thoughts on “Misconceptions of Negative Reviews

  1. I agree with you– reviews are for readers, not the authors. We only have so much time in our lives to devote to books, so reviews help us winnow down the endless list of books that we could read. If there’s a reviewer whose tastes match yours and they write a review stating that the book is bad in some way, it’s a decent bet that you won’t like the book either. That’s all. We can’t all like everything.

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  2. I agree that reviews are for readers … but, they’re also for ourselves. Writing a review helps me process how I approached a book and to figure out what I did/didn’t like about it … so that I can make better book choices in the future.

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  3. Great post. I agree completely with everything you said. I think as well, especially with the baby indie authors, you want to post a positive review, even though you only thought it was okay, nothing amazing. You want to try and help them succeed because you know how bad one review can be to someone who only has say three. I need to make a post about that. Thanks for the idea.

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  4. All of this makes SUCH good points! I was just trying to write a post about the positive aspects of negative reviews – meaning critical analysis, NOT nastiness – and I kept getting hung up, thinking about the one (blessedly, the only one!) negative review I’ve come across of my work. I felt like I was being a hypocrite, and then after reading this post, I realized what my issue was. Throughout the review, the person stated she liked the book, yet kept throwing in all these niggly little “reasons” she didn’t – for example, she doesn’t like romance, and there’s a fair amount of romance in my work, hence she cut off stars. BUT THAT IS NOT VALID CRITERIA. If you KNOW you don’t like something, don’t push yourself to read it – and DON’T then claim the author did a bad job of it, because you’re far too biased to start with!!! So that made me approach this whole topic from a more solid base, and I’m standing by what you said – reviews are for readers – and usually there’s no call for being nasty – and if authors get that easily offended, well, then the problem may not be the reviewer in question! You’ve given me some great pointers for my own post, too! Thanks!

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    1. Thank you! Ah that’s a really good idea. And it’s definitely interesting to hear from the perspective of an indie author. And I think the key in negative reviews is to be fair and even handed. But yeah I definitely think there’s no need for nastiness

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  5. I think reviews should be to give potential readers a sense of the book. I read a lot of reviews, more reviews that books LOL Occasionally that leads to me reading a particular book. Or not. You review lots of books none of which has ever compelled me to go looking for a book you reviewed to read. Why? I don’t read the same sort of books you do. Ok, sometimes you do the ‘classics’ – I’ve read many of those, as well as avoided some (I love Russian composers but aside from Chekov Russian writers do not engage me.) I don’t get paid to review anything so I only talk about the things I like. If it was my job, reviewing books or anything else for that matter, then, different story. But I share what I like and people can take it for what it is – one person’s opinion.

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    1. Yes for sure!! hahaha I relate 😉 Yeah for sure. And that’s totally fair. And yeah I don’t get paid either, so it seems a bit odd for some people to think they should have a say in what we read 😉

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  6. Wonderful post! I agree that negative posts are not inherently mean. If written to critique the book and not insult the author personally, they are simply a way to help people decide if they want to read/purchase a book. And it’s fascinating that negative book reviews can so much negativity (haha) when negative reviews of products are common. I think it’s because writing is an art and we see it as a very personal thing. I can write a bunch of negative reviews about my restaurant experience, or a kitchen appliance, or a dress, and no one thinks I’m a horrible person. But writing a negative review of a book is somehow taboo because it’s seen as being a review of the person who created the book–even if it isn’t.

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    1. Thank you! I’m really glad you agree. Exactly! haha yes- I do understand to be fair to the authors- I just think that in any situation going after the reviewers isn’t the solution. And like you said, this general perception of reviewers as mean is silly given that people wouldn’t think that about any other type of review- great point!

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      1. I think people also forget that reviews are written for readers, not authors. And most authors are never going to see a negative review, anyway, so it’s not like they’re going to be personally wounded by someone writing, “I found the pacing a little slow.” And, if they do see it, I think most authors are mature and know that people have different opinions. Other people possibly like the pacing just fine!

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        1. Yes absolutely. And yeah- I think a lot of the time the author has to actually go looking for reviews, so I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to get annoyed at the reviewer. I really agree as well- a lot of the time, the reader is trying to explain why they didn’t like it, *not* say that the book is bad, so really it could be helpful to particular readers (I know I’ve seen negative reviews for books I plan to read mentioning slow pacing and decided to read it anyway cos that’s not a problem for me!)

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  7. Now, as someone who writes negative reviews, I do understand the author’s point of view. They worked really hard on it and I didn’t like it… But, am I not ALLOWED to dislike something??
    I try to produce my negative review in a constructive way MOST OF THE TIME because, I hope the author will understand what I am trying to say. But, I have read some books and my reviews may have come off as a little nasty. BUT, in saying that, how much leeway are we supposed to give to an author’s feelings when their book is SO BAD! I’m talking 0 grammar, atrocious spelling, plot holes galore, no continuity…. Am I not supposed to call to their attention that maybe writing just isn’t for them? I know it may be brutal.. But, sometimes SOMEONE has to say it. 😕

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    1. haha yes- I do agree- I completely understand their point of view. But from my perspective, that’s why I don’t put it in their face and like you said we’re allowed to dislike things!
      haha I totally get what you mean- but that’s why I see reviews as for readers and I’m never talking about the author, only the book. Very true!

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  8. I haven’t seen the comments you mention from authors saying you shouldn’t write negative reviews but that’s just nonsense.

    I do believe there are some reviewers out there who are writing negative reviews for the wrong reason, to get attention, to seem edgy and controversial or just to be nasty cos they have some grudge against an author. But, if it’s your honest personal view about the actual book presented in an unoffensive way there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a personal view of one reader and is nothing to do with the author.

    As a reader I probably rely more on the negative reviews than the positive ones when deciding whether to pick up a book. I find it highly suspect if all reviews are glowing. I want to know what issues readers have had and then decide whether they are likely to be issues for me. Sometimes a negative for one reader is a positive for another so I don’t think authors should discourage any reviews, good or bad.

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    1. Yeah for sure! and that’s fair- there easily could be (just as much as there could be people writing positive reviews for the wrong reasons). Absolutely agree with you there. Exactly!

      And yeah I definitely agree- I find it very suspect too. And yeah- it doesn’t mean I won’t read the book either- in fact, knowing what I’m getting into can help me lower my expectations/read it in the right mood/just know what I’m getting into. And I very much agree with that. Most reviewers explain really well what worked for them and it can be great publicity for the book either way!

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  9. YES TO ALL OF THIS. Oh my goodness, I seriously agree to all of these misconceptions. It’s crazy what people assume about readers and reviews. I feel like the outliers always stick out a lot more causing negative reviews to have a bad rap. Sometimes I don’t like a book, but I always try to choose books I honestly think I will enjoy so I’m not purposely seeking out books that aren’t my cup of tea. I don’t think it’s fair when I see people pulling those kind of reviews.

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  10. I find it difficult to say anything negative about my writing group’s stories. Who am I to judge after all; I miss most of the subtle nuances that reading group questions probe.
    Then I go off and format the group’s stories for our anthology, pulling apart the punctuation and rephrasing here and there (as little as possible – it’s their voice and their story, but sometimes…). However, I truly believe that it’s the story that’s important, which is where I can’t get my own act together. (I only know the technical stuff).
    If I put out a negative in a review it has to be something I really think the author can address. Sometimes though you can say something nice that sets them thinking along the tracks of change.

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  11. Couldn’t agree more! I also find thoughtful negative reviews pretty useful, even if I don’t agree with them 🙂 There’s of course something like too much of a bad thing, and reviews that offer nothing constructive are no fun, but usually people who write negative reviews tend to substantiate their views – sometimes more than those who write only postive things.

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    1. So glad you agree! Yes for sure!! And I do get what you mean- I often find I enjoy mindlessly negative reviews about as helpful as mindlessly gushy ones (aka no help at all 😉 ) but for the most part people explain their position really well (and I often find take more care on negative reviews like you said).

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  12. Amazing post! I definitely agree that reviews are for readers, not authors, and negative reviews might show some readers that they won’t like the book while other readers realize they will still like it! Also lowkey reading and writing negative reviews is more fun than positive ones lmao I even read negative reviews for some of my favorite books to be amused

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    1. Thank you! Yes exactly! It always makes me happy when someone reads my negative reviews and says “I’m gonna read it anyway” cos it means I’ve done my job (likewise if someone doesn’t want to read a book I’ve recommended) haha too true!! Hehe me too!!

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  13. As a writer, I don’t want people to be mean about my work, any more than people enjoy having their children criticised. However I have read books that do bark like a dog, and if I was reviewing them, it would be hard to sugar-coat them. I feel that constructive criticism can be helpful, and that it’s important to remember that everyone has different tastes (ie everyone is not going to like your work).
    I do appreciate honest reviews. If I’m looking at a book online, I go straight to the 1 star reviews – it’s easy to pick out the compulsively negative people, but when I see a pattern of bad comments, I know to leave the book alone.
    You make some very valid points here, which actually would make me feel better about receiving a bad review. Thank you 😊

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    1. hehe fair enough! And I agree with that- a lot of the time it’s just a matter of taste.
      And yeah I get what you mean- often if something negative is being repeated, then it’s safe to say that there’s a more serious issue with the book.
      Thank you- I’m glad to hear it!

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  14. Great post! And while I’m sure it must hurt an author to see a negative review, you just have to accept that your book is not for everyone! I see some authors who want to get in there and debate with reader, even stalking and harassing them! Whoa, just take a step back and let people like what they like!

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  15. Completely agree!! Reviews are for readers, not authors. And while I don’t feel the need to state this in every critical review (yet), when I criticise a book, it’s about how I interact with/felt about the book. It’s not about the author or an absolute statement about the book.

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  16. Another amazing post! I agree with all of your points. there are so many misconceptions related to negative reviews. I can say many times i read negative reviews for popular books and still i’m the kind of person who says to myself ‘I’m gong to read it anyhow, because that’s my favorite author or I love that cover or loved the sound of it”. I write negative reviews and most of the time even author appreciates honest feedback. It’s up to authors how they are going to take it.

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  17. I agree with you on all of your points. I only have one really mean review of a book I hated with a passion and of course, there are people who are really upset about it and try to tell me how not smart I am for not liking it. Which only annoys me enough to keep the review up there. It’s now the most liked review for that book, probably thanks to the very people who want to silence me. Every time they comment and try to make me feel bad, about 5 more people like the review.

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  18. Great post — this actually hits home right now lol. I just finished reviewing a novel for an author and it’s the first time I’ve had an author say they didn’t want me to publish my review BEFORE they read it because I gave it a two star. Mind you, they were polite about it … but I felt really weird? Especially since after I sent the review she seemed to take what i say into consideration and even said how others had mentioned the same things I did. And I’ve rated other books low but authors still love my review. I know it shouldn’t, but it still bothers me a little. If it was a bad review, I would understand. But they said it was good … so I guess they just don’t want people saying negative things? And I have a good relationship with this author, since I’ve read the previous two books and really enjoyed the novels.

    Anyway, done venting lol! Need to learn to let it go ha-ha! but I really liked this! Such great points!

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    1. Thank you! Gosh- yeah I’d feel weird about it too. This would bother me too. It’s especially weird that it seems to be an issue loads of people were pointing out- it feels more iffy that the author is trying to make fewer people say it.
      haha no worries- I completely understand! Thank you! Really glad you liked it!

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  19. Your points are spot-on! For me personally, I don’t care to read super-snarky reviews, and I’ve definitely read some that crossed way over the line from explaining why a book didn’t work for the person to saying really nasty things for the sake of being (supposedly) amusing. What that does for me is help me know which reviewers to steer clear of! I think the point about reading books that don’t appeal to you is interesting — sometimes my negative reviews relate to books in genres I’m not especially drawn to, but I always try to say so. I mean, it’s not fair to say that a book is terrible if a reader goes into it knowing the subject matter doesn’t particularly appeal to them anyway. Overall, I strongly agree that reviews are for the readers, and people should share honest opinions. (I just don’t like snarky-mean reviews…)

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    1. Thank you I totally understand that. Yeah I do get what you mean- cos I usually try to point that out and say it’s a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me”. But I have seen people (on youtube, not on WP) say the same things over and over about the same kind of YA books and I wonder sometimes if maybe they’re just reading the wrong thing for them 😉 Sure! Completely get that!

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  20. Your post has struck a chord with me. Because I choose the books I read, it seems for the majority, that I rate them fairly highly and my reviews are for the most part positive. However, there is occasionally one that despite many positive reviews by other bloggers, I did not personally love. For instance, today I have to write a review where I know I’ll be in the minority. Everyone loves it, but I thought it only so-so. As it is a first novel, I don’t want to discourage the author, yet I can’t give it a high rating if I’m to remain honest with myself.
    Readers and authors have no idea what dilemmas we bloggers put ourselves through. LOL

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    1. That’s really great 🙂 I think that’s totally fair- and to be honest I usually find it much easier when I can say that a lot of other people like a book- it could help potential readers know that it might not be for them (lowering expectations, cos I find hype can really end up hurting a book sometimes) and also is a win-win cos it won’t put potential readers off.
      haha yes! I completely agree!!

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  21. I do write negative reviews–I point out what didn’t work/upset/bored-the-crap out of me. I find things to praise, usually, too. I’m a consumer. That’s how it works. I don’t personalize it. I try to be polite. But if something got all 5 star online reviews and I want to throw it back, there’s a definite disconnect [presuming it’s one of my usual genres].

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  22. It would be no fun without negative reviews! If my lecturer promised only give A for our papers, I’d personally find it offensive. And the process of writing the paper wouldn’t be as exciting. And how about readers who read book reviews after they finished the book?? I do that a lot. Because I don’t have a book club and always want to know what people think about the book, and if there’s anything I miss or misinterpret. I’m glad you wrote this article. Now I’m curious who’s the famous author. 😉

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    1. hehe true!! Oh gosh that’s such a brilliant point- I completely agree! And yeah I’m the same!! I love to see what other people think- whether I agree with them or not! I find it opens my eyes to all the things I missed 😀 Thank you so much! Haha I can understand that 😉 sorry I’m not saying- I may disagree with them, but as I said in the piece, I don’t like to direct things at people.

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  23. I’ve actually picked up books because of negative reviews before! Sometimes what one reader dislikes another will love. Actually there is this highly rated reviewer on Goodreads and apparently our tastes on YA Fantasy are totally opposite so whenever I see her dissing a book I know I’ll probably like it lol. Negative reviews serve a purpose as well.

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  24. Great post. I totally agree with you. We have a right to talk about the reasons we don’t like a book just as much as the reasons we do and that doesn’t mean that we are mean or purposefully hating on something or an author we are just sharing our honest opinions on our own platforms

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  25. It’s always a fine line, but I believe you can say anything as long as you know how to approach it. Negative reviews are something I do and I don’t feel ashamed of doing, ebcause it is our resposibiloty after all to review the booktruthfully! ❤ Love this book! AND GIRLL IVE MISSEDD YOU

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  26. Good points! Us Dutchies are generally seen as quite blunt, so I always try to stress that those are my personall views when writing a bad review. Tbh though, they can be quite fun to write, and I feel they make up some of my better posts

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  27. All writers are readers. That being said, we writers ask – beg for – early readers because this is how we get the feedback we need to improve our WiP. I’m pretty sure I’ve written the great American novel (just ask my mom) but on the unlikely chance that I may have forgotten a few plot points or called a character “Sally Ann” on page 14 but “Herbie” on the next page, I want those early scrutinizers to offer valid commentary before my book is published. If a writer can’t tolerate the early negative/positive critiques from folks trying to help, they’re probably going to crumble when the negative reviews come in. And they will, because as you note, not every book is written for every reader. Part of the territory.

    Writers, you get to write/publish your book, you send it into the world, someone is going to adore your green hair and mismatched socks, and someone else is going to hate them. Deal. Write another book or don’t. But do not dare to complain if someone takes the time to read your book and describes what doesn’t work for them. You should write only for your mom.

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    1. Yeah I totally get that! And I really do think that makes a lot of sense. I think that would really help toughen you up as well. And yes, we can’t all like the same things- but then that’s also what makes things interesting 😉
      I absolutely agree! And love what you said!

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  28. I agree with the majority of the points you are mentioning. I do belive that not everyone know the difference between constructive criticism and just being rude. Sometimes people write something that comes across like something else than what they originally intended. I therefore feel that people need to be aware of how they write and how it may come across, but at the same time that should not limit them from writing constructive criticism or positive feedback.

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  29. I agree with your points! Most reviewers are nuanced and they also include reasons why they didn’t like something? I think readers are perfectly able to judge for themselves whether this will apply to them or not. I usually try to mention both positive and negative aspects in a review while still being honest. I make effort not to be rude and not to bash, but some bluntness or snark might happen.But that I’m preventing others to read the book, that I wouldn’t love books? Pffft…

    I find it quite concerning that a well-known author makes such a statement. I thankfully haven’t seen it.

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    1. Thank you! And yeah for sure! Absolutely agree with you there. I definitely relate to that as well- I really try to do the same (although yeah that happens for me too 😉 ) hehe I know right!
      Yeah me too. It’s kind of frustrating to see this.

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  30. I only write a negative review if it’s a book a review has been requested on. If I read a book I simply picked up to read and didn’t like, then I simply don’t review it. But, when a review has been requested, then I am going to honestly review from MY POINT OF VIEW. Otherwise, the ranking is skewed and people don’t get a fair view of the book. A requested review is just that, a request for my view of the book, so that’s what they get. I try to point out good and bad points of a book when it’s a negative review and not dwell on negative things exclusively. I also add hopes for the next book in a series or point out that other books by the author are better or some such thing. I also try not to do a negative review too close to the release date of a new book. I try to do it as soon as I finish the book or a bit after the release date. Something that I always point out in a negative review is that I may not be the right reader for the book and that another reader may have a different opinion of the book.

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    1. That’s totally fair. And I completely get that and I think that’s the right thing to do! I don’t think it’s honest otherwise and it would make it hard for readers to trust reviewers (and readers aren’t stupid- if they only ever saw positive reviews for every book, they’d know something was up). I think that’s really fair. And yeah, I generally try to find a type of reader who might actually like the book, even if I didn’t.

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  31. I promised to always be honest in my reviews and I warn authors on my blog about it. I do think that you are entitled to your opinion but I also believe you have to be respectful of the author’s work. So I will criticise but never bash. I often try to say who might like that book that I did not like because as you said not every book is for everyone and it’s impossible to please every reader! I just had today a very interesting exchange with a new author. She had sent me her first work, physical copy across the ocean (a rarity!) for me to read and review. I had told her that I would always be honest but that if my review was a low rating I would reach for her before and give some feedback. That’s what I’ve done today as there were several issues with her book and telling her that my goal was not to be destructive but to help her improve and hone her craft. I asked her if she wanted that I publish a review or not and …seh said it was only fair and thanked me for the feedback. She told me that indeed she would ask for more proofreader and found my advices really interesting. Kudos to her because as you’ve pointed here above not everyone is that open minded!

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    1. I’m in the same boat, so I really relate. And that’s fair and a good way to do it. Yes!! And I have a lot of respect for the fact she did that. I think it’s a very mature response! Yeah unfortunately not everyone acts like that.

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  32. I do both negative and positive reviews because at the end of the day I have to be honest and fair to the readers, than the authors. Even if I receive a free copy I wouldn’t stop being critical of the book and writing. Of course, I wouldn’t be mean about the author or make it personal about them. I love this discussion post!

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  33. Yes to all of this!!!! Reviews are for readers NOT the authors! I really don’t understand these authors that are rallying to have negative reviews removed from Goodreads…. In my opinion, these authors must be fairly insecure with themselves if they can’t take the good with the bad. All art is subjective, and you will never please everyone. What one person loves, the next hates. If you can’t stand the negative reviews, don’t read them!

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  34. I loved this! You made some really great points and I really appreciated them. I definitely agree with the statement that the reviews are for the readers first and foremost. I understand the urge for authors to go and look for reviews to see how their book is being received, but they should realize & respect that they are entering a space for READERS to interact over a book.

    I’m shifting into being a more critical reader so many of my reviews end up sounding like a critical analysis so I’ll @ the author if the review is 4-5 star for me but if it’s a 3 or lower I tend to avoid it because I really don’t have the patience for someone whining in my @ box. I don’t understand why reviewers would tag authors in extremely hateful reviews or write hateful reviews in general. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to me and I feel like there should be a way on GR to flag those types of comments.

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    1. Thank you so much!! I’m glad you agree. And yeah I do really understand that- but I wish authors would realise it’s not there to insult or upset them, because I think it could save them some heartache as well.
      And yeah I can understand that as well. I also think that, while I don’t view 3* as a negative rating, might have a lot more content where I’m complaining, so I don’t want the author to read that and feel bad. I don’t understand why people tag authors in negative reviews either. And yeah for sure. I think it’s just totally unnecessary.

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  35. You make lots of good points in this post. I don’t post negative reviews anymore, but it’s just because now that I’m on submission with my own book, it felt a little weird and tacky to be criticizing other authors. However, that was just a personal choice, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone else who wants to write negative reviews. I wrote them before, and I had no problem with them. Now, I will say that I’ve seen some negative reviews that go over the top, but we can’t just make a blanket statement about negative reviews because of a few bad examples!

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  36. Hmm. On the whole, I agree with everything you’ve said. I only have two qualifications to make …
    1) I have written my share of negative reviews. I like to analyze things and pull them apart. So even if I loved a book, if one particular flaw in it bothered me, I’d often tend to focus on that.
    Then I had some negative things written about me. Fair enough, we all have to accept criticism. But after being on the receiving end, I did realize something. Putting something into print legitimizes it and makes it appear much more weighty than if it were just spoken aloud. So now, I am much more careful what I write about others. I try not to make flippant comments or to raise criticisms that aren’t really important, because now know that once it gets into writing, it looks true and it will, in some sense, be burned into the recipient’s mind and reputation forever.

    2) I disagree that “a famous author” is “a person with a lot of power.” It does look that way from the outside, but the more I find out about the publishing industry, the more I realize it just isn’t so. Unknown authors dream of getting published at all, let alone famous. We assume that once we are published, it will never be hard to find a publisher again. But then we hear horror stories about authors who have published many books but can’t get anyone interested in publishing their next one. Why? Because sales from their last book did poorly. Or the book did not get many reviews. Or it got too many negative ones. Amazingly, having a book that bombs can actually be worse for an author’s career than being never before published. So, while I agree that authors should not have thin skins and “stifle conversation,” I do understand if an author is tempted to beg readers not to flippantly pan their book just for fun. It could bring the author’s career to a screeching halt, even if they are already famous.

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    1. I think that’s a fair point to an extent- and as individuals we can decide how harsh/snarky/critical we are- but I would be wary of drawing a line in the sand because there’s no way of knowing how much is too much sometimes. For instance, some view 2* as terrible, others as okay (my own view is that 2* is I didn’t like it but others could). And what I might deem a compliment, others might see as an insult eg “this author’s work has improved so much from their last book” or even “I don’t normally like romance books but this one really worked for me”. Which is why I think that the arena of reviews has to be for readers. They’re based on subjective opinions and even a positive review can wind up having a negative effect.

      As for the question of people with power in the industry, I do broadly speaking agree that a lot of authors have very little power (and sometimes a reviewer can have more). However, I will be as bold as to say the particular person I was referring to will not have a problem publishing books. I do recognise the problem I run into referring to them as just a “famous author”, because it makes it kind of vague, however, this is where I draw the line in my negativity 😉 (not to get into it too much, but as you mentioned careers being on the line, call out culture tends to have the most adverse effect on people’s careers, and maybe it’s overcautious of me, but I don’t want to contribute to that in any way). But in the case of the general, while I’m sympathetic to an author receiving criticism, I think that lashing out is a bad look for the author, because once something is out there it’s going to be discussed, either positively or negatively and you can’t try to control for that without looking like you’re throwing your weight around. So yes, I one hundred percent understand the temptation, but would strongly advise against it most of the time (*with the caveat that sometimes, especially in the case of targeted harassment or campaigns to get a book pulled, it’s okay to stand up for yourself)

      Hope that all made sense! And thanks for your comment! 😀

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  37. Taking your points in reverse order …

    I do agree that it’s a bad look for an author to ask readers not to post negative reviews. I really can’t think of a situation (ruling out a harassment campaign) where that would be OK. So I agree with you there. This is particularly true if the author is very well-known. I just get my back up when any group of people is described as having “power.” Usually they look a lot more powerful from the outside, and their daily experience is the same as that of most people … namely, a frustrating inability to ever get anything done, and a prevailing sense most of the time that their fate is in other people’s hands.

    You are right, I wasn’t trying to make a general rule that we should show restraint in our book reviews. I was just sharing my personal experience that I now measure my words much more carefully. The experience I had was not even a book review. It was a physical written report, which I think looks even more weighty and “truthy” than something posted online. So perhaps I was comparing apples and oranges.

    Book reviews are a certain genre with certain ground rules and the ground rules allow us to be more direct about a book’s flaws than we would be about a person’s personal flaws to their face.

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